So a few weeks back we finished up our story behind the American Lager. So it seemed only right and appropriate (appropriate and right) to share our recipe for the Prohibit This! Cream Ale
Wait, I hear you say, that piece was on the American Lager. WTF is a cream ale?
Well, remember how, in the 1800’s lager beers started becoming popular in a big, bad way? This shift in popularity made ale producers drop a little poo poo in their pantaloons in fear. They couldn’t compete with these lagers so what could they do? Well a lot of them started experimenting with a style of ale that had all the characteristics of a light lager but with ale yeast or a mix of ale and lager yeast. And, hence, the American Cream Ale was born.
But wait, I hear you say again, the piece was on the AMERICAN LAGER. So why not do a recipe for an American Lager?
It’s like this.
American Lagers are really hard to do. Like REALLLY hard. Like REALLY REALLLY REEEAAALLLY hard. They require a level of control that most home brewers simply don’t have. And the result is… well… an American Lager.
It’s like scaling Everest except that instead of getting to the highest peak in the world you find yourself having tea in an old lady’s living room. The only reason for most home brewers to attempt an American Lager is just to see if they can pull it off. To test the extent of their skills in order to make a beer bland enough to qualify as an American Lager. Otherwise American Lagers are available literally anywhere. It’s more of a challenge not to drink one.
But a cream ale.. well there’s something different there. They’ve got a little more hop flavor and a little more boozy-booze than your typical American Lager. And there’s more room for interpretation by each individual brewery.
Here’s how we make ours.
First get yourself 6lb of 2 row. 6 row is more traditional and totally an option but it’s it is a little harder to work with. And it was traditional because that was all there is. But we live in the future! We little computers in our pockets and 3D printing and access to 2 row barley! So, bugger it, use 2 row.
I also like to add a pound of Munich Malt. Not a lot. Just enough for a hint of some doughy, malty tastiness.
That covers the barely. But remember, we are out to brew something very light. Which means adjuncts! In this case flaked rice. 2 pounds of the stuff.
You can also use corn. Corn will add a little bit of… well… corny sweetness. Which is fine if that is your bag. I don’t judge.
*Judges the living hell out of you*
But I like rice in this case for a cleaner, lighter flavor. BUT YOU DO YOU, BOO!
And one more thing.
Flaked barley. This is an unmalted barley that’s been rolled into flakes. It will help our beer’s head retention as well as give the beer a… well… creamy mouthfeel. That’s not where the beer gets it’s name. I don’t know where the beer got it’s name. It’s A BLOODY MYSTERY! But that’s my personal nod to the style. Flaked barley. For the cream.
Low and slow is the name of the game here. Again, you want something light and drinkable so I like 148 degrees for about 75 minutes. Though you can totally get away with a standard 152 degree mash for an hour and get yourself a little extra body and sweetness.
If you want to really bring out the big German-style guns, you can even do a step mash to maximize the fermentables and give it a cleaner finish.
It’s hard to replicate some of the nuances of this beer with extract but one can get close. You’ll need 3 pounds of Pilsen LME, 2 pounds of Pilsen DME and a pound of rice syrup extract. It would also be gosh darn diligent to steep a pound of cara pils for some extra head retention. You could also drop in a touch of light caramel for a bit of color and body, but don’t over-do it. Remember, this was supposed to be an ale version of an American Lager. Light touch there, John Henry, light touch.
Again, put yourself in the shoes of an ale brewer in the 1800’s. Business is in the privy, you probably have some form of consumption, and you got teetotalers singing hymns outside your door. These damnable lagers are all the rage and you need to figure out a way to make your beer as light and drinkable as possible with ale yeast.
What I am saying is, just a touch of hops. A smige. Like an an ounce of Nobel hops. Think Saaz, Tettnang, Fluverd or Hallertau. The point is you only want a touch of a spicy bite to balance the malt.
And yes, I totally made up one of those hops. You caught me. Hallertau is a stupid name.
If you want to put a little modern twist on it there are some hop varieties that will add a bit of nice flavor late in the boil or even as a dry hop. Hulle Melon or Mandarina Bavaria come to mind. But anything that could impart a nice hop flavor would work. But, again, keep it light. We’re not making a session IPA here, George Hodgson.
But if you want to keep closer to style, keep it simple. Noble hops. Like 30 IBU’s max. Probably more like twenty or so.
Here you’ve got a bit of leeway. Personally I like the Cream Ale Blend from White Labs. It’s a blend of both ale and lager yeast that produces a nice clean flavor at a range of temperatures. Failing that, there’s Wyeast 1056, White Labs California Ale Yeast. There are some strains of lager yeast that produce good clean flavors at higher temperatures like Cable Car from Imperial or San Francisco Lager Yeast from White Labs.
What you want is something that will finish off dry and clean. Maybe a touch of fruity esters but, again, you’re trying to compete with those damn kids and their damn lagers.
BUT NOT ALWAYS!
Its helpful to remember that the Spotted Cow from New Glarus out of Wisconsin is consistently regarded as one of the worlds best cream ales and it packs a hell of a fruity, funky fermentation wallop that’s right on the verge of being a full-on saison.
But still drinkable. Drinkable is the key.
There you have it. The ale that was meant to pass as a lager.
Prohibit This! Cream Ale
- 6 Lb: 2 row
- 2 lb: flaked rice
- 1lb Munich malt
- 1lb flaked barley
60 Minutes: 1oz Saaz
White Labs WLP 080 Cream Ale Yeast Blend